Nevada Basketball has started off its season posting a 3-0 record following a 15 point road victory against the Pacific Tigers. In addition, they continue to try and make waves in the AP Top 25 rankings. As of Monday, they received 19 points from the poll voters.
Today, they return to action as they host the Davidson Wildcats out of the Atlantic 10. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back victories with margins of victory in both games greater than 25 points.
After setting a school-record 26 made 3-pointers in their season opener, last Tuesday night, led by senior forward Peyton Aldridge who delivered a career-high 37 points, Davidson routed UNC Wilmington with a final score of 108-81.
Aldridge, an experienced senior, is the guy to lock down as he has led the team in scoring through two games, shooting at 59 percent overall from the field. In addition, one of the biggest strengths of the team overall is its shooting from beyond the arc. Aldridge accounts for 20 percent of the team’s made 3-point field goals as he is shooting 42 percent from long range. At Monday’s practice, Nevada head coach Eric Musselman identified him as one of the key players to game plan against.
“Davidson’s a remarkable offensive team,” Musselman said. “Their inside player, who people in the Atlantic, they’ve been calling him the Larry Bird of the A10. He can post up, he can shoot threes.”
However, Aldridge isn’t the lone threat to score in this Wildcats offense. Freshman point guard Kellan Grady has contributed in both of their victories. In the season opener against Charleston Southern, he drained seven 3-pointers. In their last game, he displayed his versatility as 16 of his 24 points came from shots at the rim or from 2-point jumpers.
With these two dynamic playmakers leading the way, the Wolf Pack must find a way to contain their hot shooting.
“I know we’re playing one of the best three point shooting teams in the country on Tuesday night,” Musselman said. “Whether they’re the best three point shooting team, I don’t know. I know that there’s not more than five teams better than Davidson shooting the three ball. That, I know about.”
While Davidson has shown that it can take it to the rack and convert inside the paint (they have a shooting percentage of 76.9 at the rim), they will try to find its shooters to convert from downtown. While a combined team 3-point shooting percentage of 45.3 is an impressive mark, what stands out is that of those 39 conversions, 38 were assisted, showing how unselfishly dangerous this team can be.
“They’re experienced,” Musselman said. “Like I’ve said, really well coached. People are going to see how hard they cut and how hard they move without the ball. They’re really, really unselfish. This game is a big time challenge.”
In order for the Wolf Pack to shut down their long-range shooting, they must continue to communicate well on the defensive end to minimize its rotation lapses and force contested shots.
Through three games, the Wolf Pack has done well to contain its opponent’s 3-point shooting as they have held opponents to 32.5 percent from long-range. Coincidentally, of those 32.5 percent of opponent makes from downtown, the Wolf Pack have missed contesting shots 32.5 percent of the time. In the game against Davidson, they cannot afford many open looks against a dangerous 3-point shooting team.
“They know themselves,” senior guard Kendall Stephens said. “They don’t beat themselves and they shoot the hell out of the ball. We have to be aware of where they’re at all times—being disciplined, being fundamental and kinda carrying out the game plan of not letting them get comfortable.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Musselman has been pleasantly surprised at the ability of his team to score. Like the Wildcats, the Wolf Pack was able to attain a school record in made 3-pointers in a single game, posting 17 3-pointers last time out against Pacific.
Sophomore Josh Hall emerged as the high scorer of the game as he recorded 25 points (on 8-of-12 shooting), with seven of his field goals coming from beyond the arc. With Hall leading the way in scoring in this game, the Wolf Pack has had a different leading scorer each game this season, an advantage that Musselman thinks speaks volumes about the team’s versatility.
“I think that we’re a team that’s hard to prepare for because we’re not just relying on one or two guys,” Musselman said. “We feel like on any given night we could have a different leading scorer, different leading rebounder. Through for games, we have done a good job sharing the basketball and when a guy’s been hot, I feel like our guys have done a good job of finding a hot player to get him extra shots.”
After a two-game road trip, the Wolf Pack looks to once again play a quality opponent at home in a Davidson team that is ranked in the top 100 of RPI. With the Vegas line opening at 7.5 in favor of the Wolf Pack, the team looks to continue its perfect out-of-conference record.
“We scheduled Rhode Island here and we scheduled Davidson for our fans and for us to see where we are,” Musselman said. “After the game Tuesday night, we’ll be a better team win or lose to go back and look at some of the areas against a really good team. Bottom line is we’ve got to get a way to get better as the season progresses.”